I consider returning to college for a second degree. I figure that my career as a gardener might benefit from a B.S. in botany. I’d forgotten how hard the aptitude test is! But I do well–I qualify for a full scholarship and advanced credits in science. So, this option is available.
Just because a door opens doesn’t mean you need to walk through it–check with your heart and do what you love.
When Dante comes by that evening, I talk with him about returning to college.
“Are you hungry for it?” he asks. “If so, do it! If not, then what are you hungry for?”
I’m hungry for painting.
Before I start the painting for Mara, I’ve got this other idea that I have to express. I’m not sure where it comes from or what it means. It just says something to me that I feel needs to be said. It feels like it hooks up with my life somehow, but I’m not sure how.
Before I know it, my birthday rolls around. I invite Chauncey and the whole gang.
It’s a funny party. We take turns rocking in the rocking chair. We hold father-daughter video game competitions. (Mara wins.) We eat spaghetti.
My alien friend does his thing in the corner of the room. I have no idea what he’s doing, but it makes this neat buzzing sound and I like the way the air around him feels like it’s charged with knowledge.
“My! These games are quite original!” Beatrice says. “Did you really just knock off that zombie’s head, Frank?”
Frank just chuckles.
And then it’s time for my cake.
“Remember the power of birthday wishes,”says Beatrice.
Mara asks if it’s true if a birthday wish doesn’t come true if you say it aloud.
“Any wish loses power when spoken to others,” Beatrice said, “unlike an intention, which gains power when shared.”
Before making my wish, I turn and look at the room filled with my friends–each one cheering for me, each one wishing me well, each one celebrating another year of life!
I realize that my unspoken wish has already been granted.
Frank is the last one to leave. We sit together on the love seat. He reads, and I enjoy the warm feelings of friendship.
Frank and I haven’t done much with our band. We haven’t done anything with the budding romance which we both thought might be happening between us.
But we’ve done a lot with our friendship: we’ve let it blossom.
“Thanks for being here,” I tell him.
“Sure thing, Cat,” he says.
Dante comes that night and we have our own private party.
I play a song I wrote for him.
We asked the Love Machine
all about us.
It foretold doom–but not for us.
It foretold the end–but not of us.
It said what lasts
Was what we had.
You didn’t last.
But we did.
You faded out
But not our love.
I celebrate my first day after my birthday by going for a long run at dawn. This eerie world is so beautiful.
With the mist settling over the mountains and the autumn trees bare against the gray sky, some might call this view sombre or even Gothic.
I might have said that when I first moved here. But today, I love it. I’m drawn by the mystery, the shadows, the hidden.
At the fire pit by the beach, I spot an odd figure, dressed like a carnival clown.
It’s Rainflower Ivy.
“What are you doing here, Rain?” I ask him. Rainflower and I have a bit of a history. He’s Chauncey’s best friend, and back when Chauncey was my roommate, Rainflower asked me out a few times. I went out with him once, but as soon as I learned he was married, I cut the date short. But we’ve stayed wary friends.
“I wanted a little time alone,” he says.
“Are you all right? Why’re you dressed like this?”
“I’m feeling rather tragic,” he replies. “I thought it might help me feel happier, better about my life, if I dressed cheerfully. But it just makes me feel worse.”
“Well, take care of yourself, OK? You want me to call your wife or Chauncey?”
“Naw,” he replies. “I’ll just sit here for a bit. Contemplate emptiness.”
“Nothing’s empty, Rain,” I say.
“That’s what you think,” he replies.
Back home, I feel the inspiration that I needed for Mara’s painting.
When we were looking through the inspiration books, she kept pointing to paintings in folk style, with bright colors, simple shapes, classical composition, and symbolic content.
I think about Mara, a young woman with a strong mom, a member of this strange and vibrant community, a person drawn by meaning and magic. I hope she likes what I paint.